A glossary of terms related to e-learning and distance education.

Accessibility: The practice of making Web sites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. See Wikipedia’s definition of Web accessibility. Visit Penn State’s AccessAbility web site. 

Asynchronous: That which does not necessarily occur during the same time period. In e-learning, an asynchronous activity allows students to work during times of their own choosing, within limits. Thus, a discussion might occur during an entire week, with students participating in the discussion at different times. A threaded discussion is asynchronous. 

Blended Program: Blended programs are programs that consist of online courses, resident, and/or hybrid courses (i.e., a combination of two or more of these formats).  Courses in blended programs are generally not themselves a mixture of online and resident instruction, but are individually either resident, online, or hybrid. At Penn State, such programs are called Blended Programs. (See also “Hybrid Courses.”) 

Copyright: A set of exclusive rights that regulate the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. See Wikipedia’s definition of Copyright. 

Digital Learning Cooperative: The Digital Learning Cooperative facilitates the sharing of courses among the campuses and campus colleges of the University.

e-Learning: A general term used to refer to computer-enhanced learning. See Wikipedia’s definition of E-learning. 

e-Learning Advocate: Penn State Online has been established as an internal collaborative to coordinate the growth of online learning within the University and to ensure quality and effectiveness in the use of e-learning within academic units, across locations through the Digital Learning Cooperative, and at a distance through the World Campus. To ensure an effective voice for the Commonwealth Campuses in this rapidly evolving arena, every academic unit, including each campus, was asked to identify a senior person to serve as an advocate for e-learning. This individual is referred to as an “e-Learning Advocate.” More information on the e-Learning Advocates is available on this Weblearning site under the Governance menu. 

e-Learning Cooperative: See “Digital Learning Cooperative”

FlexLearning: In FlexLearning, students have the choice of taking a class completely online, completely in the classroom, or a combination of both. Regardless of which participation mode students choose, they are assured of having equivalent learning activities that are appropriate for that mode. For more information, see FlexLearning (Penn State Lehigh Valley).  

Hybrid Course: Courses that combine Web and traditional face-to-face classroom instruction. Hybrid courses are organized to reduce or replace the number of required face-to-face class sessions in order to improve effectiveness and flexibility for instructors and students and/or to achieve other efficiencies. Hybrid courses reduce by approximately 40% or more of the number of required classroom sessions, although some classroom sessions are required. (See also “Blended Programs.”)  

MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses are the latest addition to online courses at Penn State. To learn more, please visit the Online Options site and scroll down to the information on MOOCS.

Navigation: Web site navigation is the science and skill applied to a Web site that enables visitors to change location or orientation relative to that site. See “What is web site navigation?

Synchronous: That which occurs during the same time period. A synchronous activity is one in which the students and instructor are all engaged at the same time. In e-learning, chats, and live Adobe Connect sessions are synchronous activities.  

Video Conferencing (synchronous distributed): Courses in which instructors make use of synchronous video technologies to interact with students at remote sites in real time. Technologies used include room based video conferencing systems (e.g. Polycom), as well as desktop/mobile conferencing solutions (e.g. Adobe Connect, BigBlueButton, CloudAXIS, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, WebEx, GoToMeeting).

Web-Enhanced (Registrar – Web-enhanced courses may be a traditional classroom course that incorporates online elements to facilitate communication and discussion and/or to provide students with enhanced content, extend communication, and provide links to other resources. The purpose is to enhance quality within an otherwise traditional environment by promoting communication and interactivity among students and faculty. There are specific meeting times for the online component.

Web / Online (Undergraduate Advising Handbook – Web courses are offered through both the resident instruction and the World Campus delivery systems. Web courses do not meet in traditional classrooms, with the possible exception of scheduled examinations. A Web course may be offered by both resident instruction and the World Campus with identical course content. However, a student enrolled in a resident-instruction Web course may be expected to be on campus for a classroom experience (e.g., to take an exam) while a student enrolled in a World Campus course will not be required to be on campus for any part of the course.

Page Contact: Ann Taylor

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